RTR Exclusive: Q&A with Tig Willard


I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with former Clemson Tiger linebacker Tig Willard to talk about his time at Clemson and what he is up to now.

Former Clemson linebacker Tig Willard was gracious enough to give me a few minutes of his time to ask him some questions and get his take on his time at Clemson, as well as tell me what he is up to now and what he expects from the Clemson Tiger football team this season.

Jonathan “Tig” Willard became known as one of the most consistent linebackers on the Tiger roster during his time at Clemson as he started 25 games over his career and totaled 207 career tackles. Willard was instrumental in the production of the Clemson defense, especially in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He finished his career with seven tackles in 45 snaps the upset victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-a Bowl.

Over his time at Clemson, Tig Willard carried himself with much class and represented the Clemson name well. Just a little after graduating from Clemson, Willard made headlines once more when he saved a woman and her three children out of a burning car on the side of the interstate. He has been a great football player, but more importantly leader and person, so let’s take a look at what Tig Willard has been up to and what he learned over his time at Clemson University.

Q. Talk about your time at Clemson and what it was like to play for Coach Swinney and Coach Venables.

Tig: My time at Clemson was the best. My years there I accomplished every thing that I could ever imagine. The campus is amazing and the people on campus and around the town are really friendly. It gave me that filling of home. I’m from the small town of Loris SC so it was perfect for me.

Being coached by Dabo Swinney: that enough said right there. Coach Swinney was my recruiter so before I even got to Clemson we had a bond because of the recruiting process but even after I had signed and was at Clemson we still had that same bond. I have heard that at some places once a coach has you on his team that they forget about you until you become a star player but not Coach Swinney. I have never seen a coach stand by and believe in the players the way that he do. I remember when I was just starting to become a role player on the team and we had a scrimmage, I literally called the defense wrong just about every time. I had people going everywhere lol. I remember that night at dinner I was down on my self because I knew I had messed up so I went to a corner and was trying to eat alone but he came and sat beside me and explained that I was being too hard on myself and that day was a test for me to see where I am and where I need to be. Than he said life is all about choices. Out there on Saturdays everything is not going to go our way, someone might score a point or two on us but after they score we will have the choice to either lay down or rise up and fight back. I can not say enough great things about this guy. He is like a father to me and to the team. You can talk and he will listen and give you advice about anything. He is a true players coach.

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Playing under Coach Venables. That’s a whole different story. We only had a year together but I wish I at least had one more. He taught me things and made me learn things that I never knew. He increased my playing ability and my overall presents on the field by ten. He showed me how to lead a team. I was one of the guys that lead by example but he encouraged and showed me how to be more vocal because the guys on the team respect and will listen to what I am saying. He showed me many important things like how to properly watch film and things to look for when playing an opponent. Like I said before I wish I had more time with him because he has a lot of knowledge and because of time I only got a piece of it.

Q. Can you describe what it was like to rub the rock and run down the hill?

Tig: I remember the first time I touched the rock it was picture day. I though it was going to be a plain cold rock. But when I touched the rock it was heated. I was so shocked. I remember later that night thinking that I have touched the same rock that a lot of Clemsons greatest players and coaches have touched that rock. That’s when I realized the meaning of the rock. My meaning might be different than yours but to me it was like a I was now apart of an elite group of individuals and now it was my responsibility to protect the house. The warmth of the rock was like love and it gave me a sense of peace.

The first time I ever rubbed the rock and ran down the hill. That is one of them moments that never gets old. That bus ride around is the craziest. You go from seeing a few people that are either late or that do not have tickets but still want to support the team, to stepping off of the bus and meeting 85,000 excited and screaming fans. That is nuts. The first time I was on the bus coming around I remember thinking about all of my family and all of the people that have helped me get to that moment. All I could do is think God for putting those individuals in my life as well as think him for the talents that he has given me. I also remember when the canon blew I was thinking do not fall the whole time going down the hill lol.

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Q. Talk about your time as a Tennessee Titan and what it was like to play in the NFL.

Tig: Being a Tennessee Titan: I believed that we had the team to win more games but we didn’t. The team reminded me of Clemson the way that the players interacted with each other. There was no offense and defense there was just a team. Everyone got along with each other. The guys where very welcoming when I got there and showed me the ropes. I was there with one of my brothers Cody Sensabaugh and before I left I was also there with Charlie Whitehurst so I was surrounded with great guys.

Q. What are you up to now and what are your plans for the future?

Tig: As of this very moment I am currently looking for a good paying job. I did graduate from a Top 20 national public university so I think I deserve a good paying job. I am also staying in shape and being prepared for another chance in the NFL. Which ever on comes first I am well prepared to take on the challenges that both have to offer.

Q. What are your predictions for this upcoming Clemson football season?

Tig: My prediction is for the Tigers to go all the way this year. We have the coaches and players to do it. We have the number one quarterback and almost all of the offense back and on defense a lot of them guys played a major role last year. What more can you ask for?

Q. If you could give any words of advice to the current Tigers, what would you tell them?

Tig: The advice that I would give them is to pay it forward. Help each other achieve goals that they may not be able to do alone. Two heads are better than one. Always have each others backs and stay out of trouble. You are now apart of an elite group and you must protect the house.

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